Game Development Reference
Be Sure Your Virtual Goods Make Sense to the Game
Time and again, iOS designers emphasize the importance of selling virtual goods that are connected to a game's
storyline and theme; this makes them seem less like a “give us money” interruption and more like a part of the
game experience. If it's a Mafia-themed game, for example, why interrupt the experience with a generic mes-
sage from the developer about in-app payments when you can have a mob boss tell the player, “Kid, you're too
light in the wallet to run with the big boys—better get some cash, quick!”
Updates encourage current players to keep playing and former players to take a look at what's new.
Of course, none of this advice will matter much without a compelling game with frequent updates and out-
reach to your player community. Connecting with your hard-core base of players keeps them engaged with the
game and encourages them to evangelize it to their friends.
On the flip side, the next sections cover two problems you should avoid when designing your freemium iOS
Avoid Wordy Copy and Low Prices
Verbose descriptions of virtual goods are often unappealing, especially when they take up more than a single
screen. Players will often tire of the description and exit before buying. Better to be concise as possible. Related
to that, it's better to price your items too high than too low. You can always decrease the price of updates to
encourage more sales. Better that than increase the price of an item after the fact. You'll incur the wrath of your
user base as a result.
Avoid Pay-to-Play Virtual Goods
No matter how good your game, the reality is that most players will not make in-app purchases, no matter what.
Don't compound that challenge by designing virtual goods that must be bought in order for the players to pro-
gress. By and large, players will take that as a cue to move on to another game.
An even worse design move is to sell items for in-game currency and real money in the same place without
any clear indicator of which is which. That just makes it easier for players to accidentally spend real cash on
virtual goods they weren't planning to buy. Then you run the risk of players not only hating your game, but also
sending complaints about it to Apple.
Instead, it's far more important to design an experience that free players enjoy without having to pay at all
and want to share with their friends. As mentioned elsewhere, this is why it's a good idea to consider selling
game boosts and other optional enhancements. That way, a player can still complete the entire game without
ever having to pay—or better for you, will finally opt to pay in order to enjoy the experience that much more.
Closing Thoughts and Advice for Starting
To close this chapter, the next sections contain a smorgasbord of miscellaneous final advice for iOS developers